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Creating Real Change For The Poor

Sometimes, being a bit naive can be the best thing for creating change.

For Dr. Marcella Wilson, President and CEO of Matrix Human Services, a background in health care administration left her well prepared to make sure her clients had a full treatment program in place to restore them to health. To her surprise, such plans did not exist in the field of human services.

“In health care, everything is driven by science. And health plans work together to create systems of coordinated care. Health plans are focused on what works to keep patients well,” says Dr. Wilson. “I was very naive when I switched careers to human services because I thought poverty would be dealt with in the same way.”

She immediately noticed that there are several human service organizations who are passionate about who they help fighting for the same limited funding pool. By simply framing poverty as a disease, Dr. Wilson helped her capable staff start creating comprehensive treatment plans to help end the cycle of generational poverty.

Now when people come to Matrix for help, they get help in meeting the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Meeting those basic needs is only the beginning. The next step is helping people get a job, build their money management skills and help overcome illiteracy. Upon graduating from these programs, participants are expected to volunteer to help cement the lessons learned. All of this occurs without increasing the cost of fighting poverty.

By having a different perspective on the industry, it has allowed Dr. Wilson to try new things to accomplish the mission of Matrix. The creation of the website and Emmy winning video WatRUfigtn4.org are examples of that fresh thinking.

“The kids are truly picking up on the idea that ordinary people can to extraordinary things,” said Dr. Wilson.

The purpose of the WatRUfigtn4 campaign is to encourage volunteerism among young adults. While there is no direct benefit to the agency, Dr. Wilson knows this in an important part of engaging social action.

“It’s about starting positive social movement rooted here in Detroit,” she acknowledged. “Engaging youth into volunteerism is a real mission here. Kids who volunteer, regardless of their socio-economic status, do better socially, economically and educationally.”

All of this has been accomplished by making sure a great leadership team is in place and that they have the ability to execute their jobs. The key to allowing the leadership team that flexibility is Dr. Wilson’s simple philosophy of what is expected needs to be inspected.

“I have a style where I surround myself with excellence, than I let excellence do their jobs,” she says. “Building a cabinet of experts that are passionate and dedicated to the same mission and vision is what I have found to make my career extremely successful.”

Fighting generational poverty in the city of Detroit is a tall order. With a strong leadership team, an award-winning video and a fresh approach to treating clients, Matrix Human Services is beginning to knocking that goal down to size.

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